On Electric Messiah, High on Fire Live up to Their Own Standard
High on Fire no longer have anything to prove. Their last album, 2015’s Luminiferous, was quick to disprove any doubts held by fans worried about frontman Matt Pike’s newfound sobriety (not a huge change for some bands, sure, but definitely noteworthy for band with as much hesher dirtbag power as High on Fire). Meanwhile, the band has toured relentlessly of late, tightening their live set and refining their sound into a no-frills weapon of mass destruction.
All of this comes together on Electric Messiah, the band’s eighth full-length album. Here, High on Fire have shaken off any insecurity and fluff that once plagued their music, and as a result sound bigger, meaner, and more ready to conquer the world than they ever have before.
Immediately noticeable on Electric Messiah is the fullness and focus of High of Fire’s sound. The band doesn’t go off on the experimental tangents it used to, and instead makes every second of every song count. Guitar, bass, and vocals are all used as a different form of percussion, all of which stems out of and perfectly compliments the incredible drum work of Des Kensel. Though Pike’s guitar roars fuzzily, it never goes softer than a ripping solo, and usually stays at an overdriven grind. As a singer, Pike seems to have forsaken the melancholic crooning of past tracks like “Bastard Samurai” and “The Cave” altogether, instead perfecting his backwoods yeti scream.
Rhythmically, the songs on Messiah come in two flavors: punishing thrash assaults and grinding death marches. The former can be found in opener “Spawn of the Earth,” “God of the Godless,” the furious “Freebooter,” and the Lemmy-inspired title track. The latter, meanwhile, can be heard in the driving, ritualistic stomping of songs like “Steps of the Ziggurat/House of Enlil,” “Pallid Mask,” “The Witch and the Christ” and the awesome gravel-lined rhythm of “Sanctioned Annihilation.” Perhaps the only derivation from these two options is closer “Drowning Dog,” a mid-paced and melodic song with a sing-along chorus, a wily solo, and a big stony outro that hard rock and biker metal fans will probably really dig on; the sheer catchiness of the track feels like an announcement by the band that at the end of the day, High on Fire can write a big Zeppelin-y single if they feel like it.
To be fair, some of High on Fire’s more esoteric stoner listeners might find Electric Messiah a little too much in its power and fury, or not enough in its lack of sprawling weirdo experiments. But those fans of the band’s more high-octane output of late will rejoice in the giant scope and merciless attack available on this record. Here, High on Fire aren’t out to please everybody—they’re playing their music, the way they want to, with no apologies. And it fucking rules.